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Buchanan Ridge
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
September 4, 2005

Distance: 19.5 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1266 m

Starting from the townsite, Dinah and I ascended the southeast ridge of Buchanan Peak. We thought we were climbing Buchanan Peak, but the topo map we used (see the map below) turned out to be wrong. We only reached the southeast ridge, and what we thought was an unnamed peak was actually Buchanan Peak. Despite being a minor summit, our trip held some fascinating scrambling but nothing more than moderate.

From Waterton townsite, we hiked up Carthew-Alderson trail and reached Alderson Lake in about two hours. A few minutes later, the trees thinned so we could look for an ascent route up the southeast ridge. We stayed on the trail until just before a waterfall. We left the trail, dropped down, and stepped across the stream that flows below the falls. We hiked up the other side of the drainage but soon encountered dense forest. After a short but brutal bushwhack, we appeared on a scree slope that led to a shoulder on the ridge. Here, the delightful scenery kicked in. We had striking views of Alderson Lake and later Carthew Lakes.

The shoulder ends in a crumbling cliff band comprising huge boulders. On close inspection, we realized the boulders presented no problem. Indeed, we could pretty well scramble up wherever we wished. Enthralled with the boulders, we sought out an interesting route through them. Afterwards, we emerged on a broad scree slope, featureless except for a few fissures. From there it was a plod to a high point on the ridge.

From the high point, we followed the ridge towards a peak I later learned was Buchanan Peak. We soon ran into exposed, down-sloping rock, so we retreated to the high point. Belatedly, we realized we should have dropped below the ridge. We considered going back and trying it, but we were both tired of the Waterton wind that day. When we descended, we took a slightly different route down the boulders; we even went through a short tunnel.

It took us 3:50 to ascend and 2:40 to descend. Not included on the map is the hour we spent on our attempt up the unnamed peak, actually Buchanan Peak. I didn't realize the map was wrong until years later.

KML and GPX Tracks

View from the trail showing the southeast ridge in the centre and Buchanan Peak right

Dinah watches a grouse zip by her on the trail

We headed to the end of the ridge

Crossing below the waterfall

Hiking up the lower slopes with Mount Carthew in the background

The shoulder partly hides Alderson Lake

View of the ridge from the shoulder

Working our way up through the boulders

Looking back

Lots of places to scramble up

Carthew Lakes in the background

Standing on a chockstone in a large fissure

Looking back from the chockstone

On the high point

Starting for Buchanan Peak

Looking back at the high point

As far as I got before I turned around

Heading back down the scree

Dinah emerges from a short tunnel through the boulders

Carthew-Alderson trail appears below

Heading back to the trail

Dinah crosses above the waterfalls

82 H/4 Waterton Lakes

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